Exceptional intellectual ability associated with bipolar disorder

January 01, 0001

Exceptional intellectual ability associated with bipolar disorder

Anecdotal and biographical reports suggest that bipolar disorder may be associated with high IQ or creativity, but evidence for any such connection is weak. The aim of the researchers from the UK and Sweden was to investigate possible associations between scholastic achievement and later bipolar disorder, using prospective data, in a whole-population cohort study. Using individual school grades from all individuals finishing compulsory schooling in Sweden between 1988 and 1997, they tested associations between scholastic achievement at age 15-16 and hospital admission for psychosis between ages 17 and 31, adjusting for potential confounders.

Individuals with excellent school performance had a nearly fourfold increased risk of later bipolar disorder compared with those with average grades (HR = 3.79). This association appeared to be confined to males. Students with the poorest grades were also at moderately increased risk of bipolar disorder (HR = 1.86).

The researchers concluded: "These findings provide support for the hypothesis that exceptional intellectual ability is associated with bipolar disorder."

This is an association and only found in males. There may be many confounders. This also brings educational issues into clinical medicine and research. Could people with bipolar disorder influence educational assessments, especially in certain areas (eg art, drama, language, music) where grades are very subjectively influenced by assessors? http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/196/2/109

For the full abstract, click here.

The British Journal of Psychiatry 196: 109-115, February 2010
© 2010 The Royal College of Psychiatrists
Excellent school performance at age 16 and risk of adult bipolar disorder: national cohort study. James H. MacCabe, Mats P. Lambe, Sven Cnattingius, Pak C. Sham et al. Correspondence to James H. MacCabe: j.maccabe@iop.kcl.ac.uk

Category: P. Psychological. Keywords: school performance, risk, bipolar disorder, national cohort study, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Stephen Wilkinson, Melbourne, Australia. Posted on Global Family Doctor 5 March 2010

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.